Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988) review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: Resolves all hanging plot threads of previous gundam series, high quality animation, professional voice acting, philosophically deeper than most mecha anime

The Bad: requires knowledge of preceeding Gundam series to fully appreciate

Current Availability Status: No available in Singapore. DVD available from online sources.


Mobile Suit Gundam. The legendary anime series of the 80s by famed director Yoshiyuki Tomino astounded millions of fans by offering giant robot combat action with a very realistic portrayal of war. Then, its darker sequel Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam delivered a tragic tale of love, loss and hidden conspiracies as the body count mounted to an all time high, earning Yoshiyiki Tomino the nickname "Kill them all Tomino". Now, the final chapter of an anime legend, the Universal Century Gundam saga, comes to its mind blowing conclusion.

Char's Counterattack is the culmination of years worth of Gundam storylines, in particular, the rivalry between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable that was established in the 1979 Gundam series but was never really followed through in the sequels. Seemingly having defied death once again, the famous Char Aznable has resurfaced to lead the Neo Zeon movement against the tyranical earth Federation. Slowly but surely, the movement is winning the hearts and minds of the space colonists, but Char has an even darker scheme planned. By crashing a colony on to earth, Char intends to force all human beings into space in hopes of ridding the earth dwellers' bigoted prejudice against space colonists. In order to quell this threat, the Earth Federation sends their "Londo Bell" task force led by Bright Noa and the ace pilot Amuro Ray. The battlelines are drawn once again as the world gears up for its greatest conflict ever.

As a stand alone Gundam movie, Char's counterattack does not do much for the newer audience. It expects that the viewer is already familiar with Gundam lore and the established rivalry between Amuro and Char as it immediately throws you into the thick of the story and the heat of the action. A couple of new characters like Quess Paraya and Hathaway Noa are introduced but they come across as uninteresting and seem like throw-away characters whose only purpose is to fill up screen time when we are not focusing on Char or Amuro. There is a very uncomfortable attempt at creating a shaky love triangle story but the execution of that plot thread was not as good as it could have been.

Poor attempt at romance aside, Char's counterattack features a number of other themes that the viewers can easily relate to. There is a coming-of-age theme in how Hathaway Noa desires to step out of his father's shadow and forge his own identity, and there is a good deal of wartime pholisophical rhetoric thrown about by Char. That being said, only once Amuro and Char take center stage does the movie finally find its footing and delivers an engagingly entertaining experience. They are the perfect opposites, each representing widely differing views on war and the idealistic pursuit of peace. How far is one willing to go to end a war? Does an objectively good end justify unethical means? Can the obsessive pursuit of ideals turn men into monsters? Questions like these pop up during the course of the narrative which challenges the viewer to think and question.

Some fans have complained about the lack of character development of many of the cast, but it seems further development of the characters was not the director's intention. It is not a movie to develop the characters further, but a movie to bring about a RESOLUTION to the characters that have been developed over the course of the previous Gundam series. Char's Counterattack should not be viewed as a stand alone movie. As such, it is highly recommended to re-watch at least the original Gundam 0079 TV series or compilation movies before watching this movie. Re-watching "Zeta Gundam" would also add to a better understanding of Char's character and his bitter inner struggle with his own ideals over the years.

Jam packed with epic action sequences thanks to a higher budget and more experienced staff, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack is the exciting concluding chapter in the grand sweeping tale of Amuro Ray and Char Aznable. Here is a high point in the history of Gundam that subsequent shows had never surpassed.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: to witness one of the must watch anime movie classics that inspired a generation of other creators to follow i its footsteps. Or if you are a Gundam fan and would like to see the best Gundam had to offer.
Avoid it: If you really have no pre-knowledge about the original gundam series and would not even bother reading up wikipedia

Entertainment: A
Story: B
Characters: B-
Animation: A-
Art: A-
Voice work (japanese): A
Voice work (english): A-
Replay Value: B+
"Brains": A-

Clash of the titans: Amuro's Nu Gundam and Char's Sazabi go head to head

Amuro and Bright Noa prepare for battle

Char Aznable. Hero of the people or anti-earth terrorist?

Awesome animation reflects the chaos of actual warfare

Noteworthy video releases

Avatar - 3 disc extended edition DVD and Extended collectors edition Blu-ray

Resident Evil Afterlife - DVD

Twilight saga: Eclipse - DVD

Inception - DVD and Blu-ray

Salt - DVD and Extended Edition DVD

Knight and Day - Extended edition DVD

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) remake review

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: better than usual acting for a horror movie, intense chase sequences, lots of blood and gore, atmospheric cinematography

The Bad: too much blood and gore, bland story, few genuinely scary scenes for a horror movie

Current Availability Status: banned in Singapore

Ah! the vast Texas countryside. Rolling plains, long stretches of road, quaint little towns. It is 1973 and what could be more fun than going on a road trip with a bunch of friends to catch the biggest Lynard Skynard concert of the decade? Nothing could go wrong. Well for Erin, Kamper, Morgan, Andy and Pepper, every "wrong" starts to happen when they come across a blood drenched and obviously traumatised young girl. Being good hearted teens, they try to seek help first from the local sherrif. However, the unreasonable sherrif suspects the teens of foul play forcing them to turn to some residents of an old house for help. But those Texas residents have a gruesome little secret hidden in their cellar, and it carries a Chainsaw. Naturally, "massacre" will follow.

Produced by Michael Bay, this remake revolves around a retelling of "actual" events involving a group of teenagers and their tragic run-in with the deranged Texan family of killers and the murderous Leatherface. In true slasher movie fashion, the characters are just there to look pretty until they get offed one by one in the most gruesome ways. The acting is actually praise-worthy, better than the usual horror film, but it suffered from an uninspired script and flat story.

As a stand alone horror movie, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake is actually more horrific than horror. Where the original show banked on the tension and scared by teasing one's inherant primal fears, the remake does not scare by actually scaring but by making the audience cringe in terror thanks to gratuitous amounts of gore and prolonged scenes of suffering before the eventual death Many times, the film leaves the genre of horror and falls into more a "torture porn"-like genre.

If there was anything scary about the film, it was not the Leather-face killer. Rather, it was the overall sense of helplessness felt by the main characters. As the movie goes along, the characters try to turn to other townsfolk for help. But they soon realize that the townsfolk, and even the sheriff, are not only unwilling to help, but have a much darker agenda planned.

Flipping through Marcus Nispel's short resume of films(he directed the Friday the 13th remake and Pathfinder) and Platinum dune's list of horror remakes would pretty much tell you what to expect; a tendency to focus mostly on gory killings. Nispel himself seems more capable of directing a frenzied chase scene or a bloody body carving as opposed to anything remotely scary. At least the film looks great with a stylishly worn yellowish tinge to every scene that complements the "1970s" setting.

Despite its shortcomings, the film was rather popular at the box office. Perhaps action is indeed more successful at netting a wider audience than actual horror. And like many action movies, Texas Chainsaw Massacre exists solely for that unauthodox sense of escapism. Showing it to your more chicken-hearted friends and watching them gross out is also a good way to use this movie. It is a cringe worthy thrill ride of a splatter-fest with better than usual acting. Not the best of horror movie remakes, but not the worst either.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you desire a more faster moving, more savage version of the 1978 classic
Avoid it: if you were happy with the tension and fear of the original classic

Entertainment: A-
Story: B-
Acting: B
Characters: C+
Replay value: B+
"Brains": D

Saturday, December 11, 2010

King of Fighters (2010)

Overall verdict: 1.5/10

The Good: guaranteed to make you laugh at how terrible it is

The Bad: It is really that terrible

Current Availability Status: on DVD in all singaporean DVD stores

Two words describe this movie. The last word is "up" and the first word starts with an "F". And no, it is not "Fighter". The two words make up an insult much like how Hong Kong Director Gordan Chan's "The King of Fighters" is an insult not just to the fans of the King of Fighters (affectionately abbreviated to "KOF") video game series, or video games in general, but it even manages to be an insult to bad video game movies.

Cue the sensless plot that completely rips-off "The Matrix" while sounding more confusing than the entire trilogy combined. The premise of this movie involves a secret tournament that is held in some alternate dimension in which fighters from around the world "log in" to via special earpieces. Think jacking into a big matrix-like video game world, complete with "I-know-kung-fu" wire fighting and bad computer composited special powers. Its all fun and games until Rugal (Ray Park doing his best Darth Maul meets The Joker impression) steals some sacred artifacts with a plot to free something called "The Orochi". Why free the orochi? Because Rugal wants to hack the alternate dimensional video game, give himself god-like powers and ultimately be the champion of the game. (Seriously) Out to stop him are undercover agents Mai, who is working for Terry Bogard in the CIA, and Iori Yagami, a man with a past connection to Rugal. Together they must seek out a third artifact called the "Kusanagi sword" which has been passed to Kyo Kusanagi, a white boy with Japanese name.

Alternate gaming dimensions, ancient snake ball demons and mythical artefacts. Oh My. To quote Maggie Q's character of Mai by saying "Its not Logical", would be a major understatement. An illogical, confusing and plodding plot is the least of this movie's problems. In trying to mix mysticism with hardcore science fiction would have worked in the hands of a skilled creative team. Here it turned out like oil and water, making the entire movie very difficult to follow and bordering on absurd.

The most basic criteria for a just "passable" video game movie is that either the story has small resemblance to the game (Silent Hill, Max Payne, Hit-man) or the character has some similar appearance to their game counterparts (Mortal Kombat, Tekken). King of Failures has NONE of these mere basic elements! The least Gordan Chan, the director, could do was to give some good ol fashioned hong kong kung fu but even that is missing making King of Failures an absolute chore to sit through.

The pacing is thrown off by having too much talk and not enough fight. The needless exposition and banal dialogue is not even interesting nor does it develop that silly excuse for a plot. Kyo's so called "hero's journey" has been done in umpteen other shows and every character's lack of charisma is made even more painful by stilted acting and laughable dialogue.

When some action does come once in a while, it is an utter let down and a complete joke especially when one knows what kind of stunts Hong Kong is capable of. The fight choreography is generally uninspired, almost dull; Many B movies have had better fights than this. Ray Park and Will Yun Lee were the only two actors who had some convincing fighting moves thanks to their martial arts training background. But the biggest sin here is Gordan Chan's wonky camera-work which uses way too many slanted angles, headache inducing tilted shots and an irritating purple lighting in the alternate dimension scenes that seems reminiscent of "Battlefield Earth".

For all the times people have lambasted hollywood for video gam movie flops like "Legend of Chun Li" and "Super Mario", Hong Kong has now topped all that. Some might argue that this is worse than the stuff from the infamous video game movie director Uwe Boll (House of the Dead, FarCry). But on a lighter note, this movie would make great subject matter to be laughed at on a boring movie night. It might even scare off video game companies who are thinking of selling the rights to make a movie.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: To see how horrible a video game movie adaptation can get
Avoid it: if you refuse to believe that this is a hong kong movie. Or better yet, just avoid. Nuff said.

Entertainment: C-
Story: D
Acting: C-
Characters: D+
Replay value: D
"Brains": F

Monday, October 18, 2010

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse [2010]

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: detailled Artwork, smooth animation, top notch voice acting, sticks relatively true to the original comic

The Bad: minor deviations from the comic, lacking much emotional aspect, truncated narrative, , relatively inaccessible to viewers unfamiliar with DC comics lore and characters.

Current Availability Status: on 2 disc special edition DVDs in singapore stores now.


The Superman/Batman comic stories' main attraction has always been the character interplay. How the two famous superheroes, different in every aspect like oil and water, lend their perspective on similar situations and in the end, pull together for the greater good. In that respect, "Superman/Batman: Apocalypse" does not disappoint as Superman, Batman and even Wonder Woman bring their unique personalities to the table when they face their latest little "problem".

The "problem" in question is the unexpected arrival of Kara Zor-El (Summer Glau), Superman's cousin who crash lands to earth, disoriented, unclothed but unhurt and lost in Gotham. In perhaps an intentional homage to Glau's previous Terminator character in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", She "procures" a coat from a trio of overly eager warehouse workers, but not before almost accidentally killing them. The unintentional destruction she causes while trying to flee from the cops alerts both Batman and Superman who take her into their custody. While Superman is overjoyed at finally meeting a fellow survivor of his home planet, Batman is skeptical and naturally suspicious (she did trash Gotham without even trying). More trouble follows when Superman tries to get Kara assimilated into earth culture but Wonder Woman has other plans for her as she too fears Kara's lack of control over her powers. But on the burning planet of Apokolips, the dreaded DarkSeid has his sights on the young kryptonian girl to be the latest addition to his warriors. What follows is a perilous incursion into Darkseid's palace with one deadly confrontation after another with the forces of Apokolips.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse adapts the "Supergirl" story arc of the Superman/Batman comic series by Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner. It is a rather faithful adaptation, barring a few very minor changes here and there, and as such shares both the good points and the shortcomings of its source material. For one thing, the story proceeds at a very fast pace, which is good as it keeps things from getting boring. However that means the time frame of the tale is difficult to follow. For example Kara was supposed to have been training with the Amazons for a few months but it seemed like only yesterday. We only know about the time skip thanks to some mandatory exposition.

Rather than its truncated story, it is the snappy character interplay, well written dialog and a top notch cast of actors that carry this show. Tim Daley, Kevin Conroy and Susan Eisenberg return comfortably to their DCAU roles of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Everyone else is perfectly cast, especially Summer Glau, lending much emotional weight and realism to the characters. The only role that did not seem to fit as well was Andre Braugher's unmistakably African American sounding DarkSied. The tone of voice was right but a more neutral accent would have fit better.

Judging from the way the characters are handled, the target audience is most definitely long time fans who are already familiar with the personalities of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. That is because the "DC trinity" get little character development here, allowing Supergirl to take most of the development spotlight. That is not to say that the main trio do not get their chance to shine. Their differing views on life clash often which sheds some light on their individual inner natures. There is even a dramatic introspection by one of the villians regarding Batman's questionable methods in contrast to that of superman and, ironically, more similar to that of the villian himself.

Viewers who have watched the previous "Superman/Batman: Public enemies" can treat this as a sequel despite the differing art styles. As the previous movie replicated Ed McGuinness's stylishly muscular artwork, this one manages to translate Michael Turner's bold character designs barring a slight drop in art detail. The animation by "MOI Animation" is very fluid considering the "higher-than-usual" level of art detail, with no visible short cuts and a high frame rate throughout. As a result, the intense action and superhero battles are vivid and violent. Those who love some good hero on villian brawling would love what is in store for them here.

For DC animation fans, readers who loved the Superman/Batman comics and superhero action junkies, "Superman/Batman: Apocalypse" would no doubt be a hit. More time could have gone into letting the story "breath" a little or making it a smart anecdote about growing up, stepping out from under a overprotective sibling/parent's shadow and finding one's place in the world. Then again, since those themes were never present in the original comic, here is a case where straying from the original source might have turned out a better product. But no point lamenting what it could have been. Rather, enjoy it for what it is.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you are a fan of the "DC Trinity" in action, have read the original Superman/Batman comics or used to be a fan of the popular Bruce Timm DC Animated universe shows (Justice League unlimited)
Avoid it: if the name "Darkseid"(pronounced "dark Side" by the way) brings thoughts of Star Wars instead of DC comics. In other words, if you are unfamiliar with the characters, it is recommended you get acquainted first via other DC animated productions or the comics themselves.

Entertainment: B+
Story: C
Characters: A
Animation: A-
Art: A-
Voice work: A-
Replay Value: B
"Brains": C

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Love In Disguise 戀愛通告(2010) review

Overall verdict: 3.5/10

The Good: Convincing acting, well cast roles

The Bad: cliche ridden, evidence of author self-glorification, bland jokes, one dimensional characters, generally uninteresting main character.

Also know as: Lian ai tong gao, 戀愛通告

Current Availability Status: coming to DVD

Either Chinese pop idol Wang Lee Hom had a breath of inspiration to try to break into the film making business, or music is not bringing in as much dough as he would like. Either way, it must take some gutsy person to make a movie, not a documentary or biopic, about......himself.

Wang Lee Hom writes, directs and stars in what is easily a glorified fan-fiction about himself. Lee plays Du Ming Han, pop idol extraordinaire with an over active imagination and adored by millions. Along with his loyal manager, Joan (played by actress....Joan Chen), each day is a routine of performances, evading the paparazzi through the use of disguises and partying at night with his band-mates. One night after giving the press the slip, Ming Han's posh Van literally runs into a female music student named Song Xiao Qing. Miraculously unhurt, Xiao Qing checks her "GuZheng" string instrument for damage. This is when Du Ming Han's overactive imagination kicks in as Xiao Qing's tune conjures up images of badly CGI-ed butterflies in his head. Immediately smitten by her, though he claims he is only her music that he is in love with, Du Ming Han and his lead guitarist Wei Zhi Bai track the talented girl to her school. Donning a couple of silly disguises, they enroll in the schools music department so that Ming Han can have the pleasure of hearing Xiao Qing play once again.

As much as Du Ming Han daydreams of flowers, butterflies and beautiful hilltops when he listens to Xian Qing's music, the entire movie seems like a wishful daydream of writer/director/main actor Wang Lee Hom. The characters that populate the story are either played too over-the-top for anyone to take seriously, are utterly unlikable or generally lack a certain presence. The first flaw falls on every single side character from the school principle (who happens to be Xiao Qing's father) to even Wei Zhi Bai. They are all played for laughs basically, and nothing more. "Utterly unlikable" goes to the character of Mu Fan, a perfectionist top music student who Xian Qing has a crush on. Played like a complete jerk rival to Du Ming Han, his eventual change of heart comes without any reason other than to move the already plodding plot along. And lastly there is Xiao Qing, played by actress Liu Yifei, who feels like a blank slate. Where the other actors ham it up to the max actress YiFei does not even seem to be trying, rendering the character of Xiao Qing an expressionless bore.

But perhaps the greatest flaw is the flawless main character himself. He is a "Mary Sue", perfect in every way. He's got the looks, the cash, the charisma, and is talented in both pop music and classical Chinese instruments. And we as the audience are supposed to like him and feel sorry for him even though it was by his own dishonest actions that put him in a spot in the first place?

Every single "twist" in the plot is easily predictable and the forced humor gets old really fast. It really is unclear whether the story is to be firmly rooted in reality or fantasy. While it gives a very satirical look into the life of a superstar, there are too many moments where suspension of disbelief has to be called into play.The story even defies logic at times, expecting the audience to believe that a person can slip out of one disguise and into another AND run from the toilet to the performing stage, all under ten seconds (unless super-speed is another talent of the main character).

There was one moment where this movie could have set itself apart. A subplot about the concept of "soul-mates" as something mutually exclusive of "lovers" could have been developed more fully. Perhaps exploring the different types of love that need not be just romantic love, or expounding on how a Soul Mate might indicate a more metaphysical connection than a merely emotional one. Instead, after a small tease, the narrative conveniently lumps "romantic partner" and "soul-mate" together again and we are back in cliché land.

As much as Clark Kent's glasses is an absurdly thin disguise for Superman, so is Du Ming Han's disguise in this film. That same thinness translates to the plot, the characters and even the dialog. "Love In Disguise" feels like a lazy vanity affair. A self promoting tale of a musical Mary Sue that offers nothing new to the genre, not even some new laughs.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you are a Wang Lee Hom fangirl or are in the mood for some extremely shallow laughs. Or if your girl pal insists on dragging you along.
Avoid it: if you are a general fan of good romantic comedies.

Entertainment: C+
Story: C
Acting: B
Characters: D-
Replay value: C-
"Brains": D+

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Overall verdict: 5/10

The Good: Avatar-style stereoscopic 3D, intense action scenes, stylish cinematography, contains a lot of elements from the games, excellent creature effects

The Bad: no character development, erratic paced story, over usage of slow motion, "borrows" shamelessly from other action movies, not scary as a horror film.

Current Availability Status: In Theatres NOW

It really is funny how the titles for the Resident evil film franchise are almost self-descriptive of the movies themselves. Though the first film featured none of the game's characters, it captured the intense thrill and fun of the game. Then, like the apocalypse in its title, the second one was messy, chaotic and brought on the wrath of fans who hated that their favorite game characters got sidelined for the franchise protagonist, Alice. Extinction saw the franchise like the last of its kind on a dying planet, desperately trying to stay alive by scavenging parts of other movies (like Day of the Dead and Road Warrior) but at least it went out in a blaze of glory. Now it seems the Resident Evil Franchise has not been a good boy, and we all should know where bad boys go. Thats right, the powers that be saw fit to send Resident Evil Afterlife straight to hell.

Paul WS Anderson returns to his franchise baby with a new toy. Amazing stereoscopic 3D the likes of which was used in AVATAR. And like any kid with a new toy, he goes overboard sacrificing all substance for all style. The silly excuse for a story begins immediately after Resident Evil Extinction left off. If the movie was truly a video game, Alice would be that idiotic hacker who got her hands on every single cheat code. She got "GODMODE", "AIMBOT", "/KILLALL" and even a cheat for "Allied NPC Spawn". For the benefit of non-gamers, this just means that Alice gots superpowers and a super-powered clone army too. Within the opening minutes, Alice and clones stage a daring incursion into the Tokyo facility of Umbrella corporation, causing chaos and ultimately facing down the T-virus powered chairman, Wesker. The writer, also Paul WS Anderson, must have known by now how quickly the movie would be over since Alice could just pop the guy's head like she did in Resident evil Apocalypse. So through some stupidly convenient plot device, Alice is superhuman no more and all her clones are gone. Now on the run, she proceeds to Alaska in the hopes of reaching the last safe haven where her friends fled to, a place named "Arcadia".

The mystery thickens when all she discovers is an empty landing field and a deranged Claire Redfield (Ali Karter) under the control of some weird biomechanical device. After saving Claire, the duo proceed to Los Angeles where they encounter another group of survivors holed up in a prison. With zombies all around and a new dangerous giant axe/hammer wielding threat heading their way, Alice, Claire and the survivors must find a way out ASAP. Their last hope may rest with a prisoner named Chris.

It all sounds a lot better than it turned out. Story-wise, this seems to be a very standard action movie narrative with maybe only one good twist. The characters are the main problem. Anyone who is not Alice is relegated to being a one-dimensional stock character common in zombie apocalypse movies. You have a conniving asshole in a business suit, a damsel, a rough-n-tough soldier, a big strong African American guy and a token Asian dude. Claire Redfield takes over from Alice's initial appearance in the first movie as the amnesiac who slowly regains her memory and conveniently reveals the plot twist. As for Alice, the only thing that set her part from the other characters in the past was her mysterious developing powers. Now that she has lost them, she has possibly become one of the most boring action chicks in movie history

Paul WS Anderson, the baby with the 3D, must have spent so much time making his wife look good on screen that he forgot not only to write a good story but to direct good action. He blatantly rips off The Matrix trilogy, Dawn of the Dead, and possibly Ninja Assassin. And by "blatantly" it means lifting whole scenes to the point where it should usually be considered a copyright violation. Almost 90% of the combat scenes are in slow motion, easily reminding one of Uwe Boll's "House of the Dead", complete with painful over usage of 360 degree panning and other matrix bullet time effects. As a resident evil movie, Afterlife commits the worse crime possible by having more humans fighting humans than Zombie killing action. The very sci/fi-ish set up, the CGI cityscapes, lack of Zombies and Milla Jovovich doing Gun Kata makes this feel more like "Ultraviolet 2" than a Resident Evil film.

Perhaps the one redeeming factors is how the franchise is trying its damnedest to move back on track with the games. There are numerous references especially to Resident Evil 5 and Code Veronica; the Executioner, Wesker's appearance, even that P30 bug thing just to name a few. A real pity that no explanation is given for their appearances; is the Executioner a mutated zombie or the latest Umbrella corporation bioweapon? Where did the P30 bug come from? When did Wesker start having superpowers? Anyway, Alice no longer dominates the screen as Game characters like Chris and Claire get their fair amount of time to shine. No doubt the fan-boys might be more pleased than usual about this. Oh yes, and there is Avatar-style 3D which just shows how weak the movie would be without this gimmick.

Like a shambling zombie, Resident evil Afterlife now plods through the movie underworld. A sad Frankenstein's-monster pastiche of past films with an erratic pace and no soul left in its shell. It has got action, lots of it, which when coupled with the slick 3D would no doubt please the millions of simple-minded adrenaline junkies populating this planet. It would find warm reception too perhaps from fans who desire something closer to that of the games (compared to past movies), and maybe existing fans of the Resident evil movie franchise. With the promise of a sequel, one wonders how much lower can the franchise go now that its already all gone to hell.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you have an idea about the Resident evil film franchise and expect the stylish but extremely shallow, action heavy product that you are going to get. Also if you have played the REsident Evil 5 game and want to see some of the mutated creatures in live action form.
Avoid it: if you expect something that exceeds the standards of the previous resident evil movies or any form of emotion closure for the characters.

Entertainment: A-

Story: C
Acting: B+

Characters: C-
Replay value: B-
"Brains": D+

Saturday, August 28, 2010

G. I. Joe: Resolute (2009) review

Overall verdict: 8.5/10

The Good: almost movie quality animation, characters are exactly as fans remember them except better developed, keeps the good points of past productions and improves on the bad, talented voice cast, well written narrative and dialogue, realistic and gritty.

The Bad: too short, violence may put off those expecting something kid-friendly

Current Availability Status: not in singapore. Code 1 DVD available from online stores.

DVD features:
- 20 minute long interview with director, producer and art designer
- original internet promotional video
- character gallery and information


The classic G I Joe cartoons have always been the poster boy of sorts for non-violent, almost campy "good team versus evil team" type of story. Despite the toyline being based on the actual military, being marketed to children meant a certain degree of pandering to the kids. As a result, the original show from the 80s featured increasingly bombastic science fiction plots, villians who got dumber each episode and a military unit versus a terrorist organization using stun laser guns fighting a war in which absollutely nobody got hurt (save for some collateral damage and robot destruction). Suspension of Belief was the order of the day. Three TV series and two CGI movies later, "G I Joe: Resolute" was quietly released as a series of ten minute long videos online, designed to ride the publicity wave of the live action G I joe movie.

Ironically, this little gem of an animated movie recieved much better fan critical acclaim than its live action counterpart. Where the live action movie stuck with the cartoony nature of the G I Joe cartoons, G I Joe Resolute remained faithful to the concept of the toyline and the comics while reinventing the franchise in a more mature light.

Either set in a new continuity or as a loose sequel to the original animated series, G I Joe resolutes opens with a literal bang as the G I Joe team's main Aircraft carrier base is nearly destroyed in a terrorist bomb attack. Following this, key installations around the world are seized with lightning quick effeciency and one of Cobra Organisation's head honchos turn up dead on the steps of City Hall. What has happened is that Cobra commander, yes that cowardly bombastic buffoon from the classic cartoon, is back. Now a cold, calculating tyrant, he has seized command of Cobra by force. With a deadly new superweapon, a fool proof plan to hold the world hostage and the G I Joe team all but crippled, it falls on the remants of that team to pull together and launch an ambitious multi-pronged stealth counterattack. Their mission is to retake the seized facilities, shut down the orbital superweapon and discover the wherabouts of Cobra's base. But with time running out and their most crucial member, Snake Eyes, off to settle a personal vendetta, will the G I Joe team pull through in the end?

Clocking at only 60 minutes total, one would expect a truncated and watered down story. Not true. The story in G I Joe Resolute plays out very nicely over its allotted time, never feeling rushed at all, and has a decent conclusion which leaves some space for a sequel. The writers on this one seem to really know their stuff and have went for a more realistic portrayal of the titular paramilitary team. G I Joe members plan combat strategies, use actual military jargon and weapons that actually shoot bullets. Supporting the team is a huge collection of intelligence officers and maintainence crew, unlike the original series in which the G I Joe team were on their own yet all vehicles were always properly maintained and all battle plans were always at the ready.

The focus of the story is more on the main team of Duke, Scarlett and the ninja Snake Eyes, all of them exactly as one would have remembered from the old 80s cartoon series but with added dimensions. Gone is the all American Good guy boy scout, "do no wrong" Duke. Here, he is a "take charge" leader, but not without his flaws; he allows personal feelings to get in the way of his judgement and puts himself at unnecessary risk often for the sake of his team. Its those flaws that make him ever so much more human. There is a visible love triangle between the 3, but thankfully it is only implied and does not descend into anything overly sappy. Snake Eye's backstory is the only one that is fully fleshed out though, from his days as a ninja trainee to his vendetta with Storm Shadow. Many of the original characters that existing G I Joe fans would recognise reappear in this show too. The amazing thing is that Only five voice actors performed the roles for over twenty characters, yet each character manage to sound unique.

Special mention goes to Charlie Alder(the voice of Starscream in the Transformers 2007 movie and Revenge of the Fallen) who carries on the tradition of a Starscream voice actor doing the voice of Cobra Commander. This Cobra Commander is very much in keeping with his toy description and his comic portrayal. A ruthless, tyrannical, scheming overlord with no qualms of killing his own troops should they refuse to obey him. His portrayal here can be compared to Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in "The Dark Knight' or perhaps Hannibal Lecter. He is merciless and his new voice just reeks of evil. No more over the top schemes of world domination, this Cobra Commander cuts to the chase: surrender or die.

Similarly, G I Joe Resolute is an amazing technical achievement for OVAs. The artwork retains the designs of american comic books but with an attention to detail that rivals the best Japanese anime. The animation itself is smooth with dynamic shot angles and near perfect blending of CGI with the cel animation. Few animated shows can pull off a convincing 360 degree pan around a character or a believable slow motion shot without the scene looking jumpy but this one is an excepton. G I Joe Resolute has definitely set a new benchmark in animation. The battle scenes have also been taken to a whole new level. No more stun laser guns or shots missing at point blank range. No more "its only a scratch" or "he got shot but its just a flesh wound". THIS IS WAR. The battle scenes are very realistically planned out with the effects of war clearly visible in all its bloody glory.

Alas, with all these excellent aspects of this movie, its only flaw is that it is too short. Sure, it does not feel truncated or watered down, but a more visible build up in the tension and the story would have been a welcome additon. It is how one would like an enjoyable thing to last, but sadly this movie did not last long. Both long time fans and new comers to animation would love this latest G I Joe production that is easily the most realistic and mature entry into the franchise so far.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you want to see G I joe at its very best. Incorporating everything that worked in the past while getting rid of every aspect that did not work. Also go for it if you felt let down by the live action movie and would desire something more "true to the original"
Avoid it: if you expect the campy kid-friendly nature of the 1985 cartoon series

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Characters: A
Animation: A
Art: A-
Voice work (English): A
Replay Value: A
Brains: C+

Seamless blending of traditional cel animation (the runway personnel) and CGI (the plane).
In fact the plane looks completely like a cel animated plane, but it really is a computer generated model

The G I Joe team, assembled.
Same old recognisable characters given a modern makeover

Ninja Assassin!
G I Joe team member Snake Eyes prepares to dispatch an opponent

I Know Kung Fu
The action in G I joe resolute borrows stylisticly from "The Matrix", "Equillibrium" and other big hollywood action movies.

Macross missile massacre or Robotech rocket rain. Either way, its way cool.
Other influences come from famous anime like Macross, Sword of the Stranger and Jin Roh.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Halloween (2007) remake review

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: Excellent acting, full character development, psychological insight, satisfying kills (the victims deserved it), does not "reinvent the wheel"

The Bad: not scary, might be too much gore and sex, lacks the tension filled mood of the original

Current Availability Status:
-discount priced DVDs in most Singapore DVD stores.
-Unrated Directors cut available in limited supply from HMV singapore

Remaking the much adored classic horror film "Halloween" is no easy task. A devoted fanbase who have been let down by a series of increasingly disappointing sequels, guard their beloved franchise like rabid dogs. Any attempt to tamper with the original story of Laurie Strode and the mysterious killer named Michael Myers would be met with immediate negative reaction. Heavy Metal Musician-turned-film director, Rob Zombie, knows this well. As a result, he does not even both rehashing Lauri Strode's horrific encounters with a killer. In this remake, Michael Myers himself is the focus of the story as his tragic origins are traced right from his tortured childhood, thus giving birth to the souless evil that has become a famous horror icon.

The movie can be essentially be split into to distinct parts: Myer's childhood and incarceration at Smith's grove Sanitarium right up to his escape years later, and then the second part would be his return to Haddonfield to carry out his grizzly murders; this being a loose recreation of the original classic movie only with the focus on the killer instead of the victims.

Growing up in the town of Haddonfield, young Michael Myers is bullied at school, teased by his sister and continually insulted by his stripper mother's boyfriend, Ronnie. Though he tries to hold it all in, he is Pushed to the brink. One day he snaps; His psychopathic tendencies finally manifest resulting first in the grizzly murder of the school bully and then his sister, her sex partner and Ronnie on Halloween night. Michael is then placed under the care of Dr Samuel Loomis who tries unsuccessfully to "cure" the boy and then makes a career out of him by writing books based on Michael Myers' deteriorating psychological condition. Following the suicide of his mother, Michael grows ever more distant and remains in Smith's Grove for the next fifteen years until he escapes by murdering the employees as one of them were attempting to rape a fellow patient.

It is in this first segment where we get to see how the director, Rob Zombie, manages to craft a world as seen through the eyes of a killer. Hate drove Michael to kill and similarly every single character, with the exception of Dr Loomis and Michael's mother, is portrayed in such a way that you just MUST hate them as much as Michael did. The girls are complete bitches, the guys are foul mouthed retards, every single character is just so easy to dislike; it is a skewed world that Michael Myers sees and one of the reasons why he has no qualms about killing everyone who inhabits it. Aside from Michael, Dr Loomis is also given a much better character development here than in the original. He is a more sympathetic character who genuinely wants to help Michael Myers and for a while, the two actually form some sort of bond. Much better than the obsessively driven Loomis of the original who was more like a crazy Captain Ahab after Moby Dick.

The second part involves Michael returning to Haddonfield and going on a bloody rampage while searching for his long lost sister. This part is the "horror story" remake proper and depending on how you look at it, might seem very disappointing. For one thing, it is not scary at all; you'd know it every time Michael is about to kill someone so that takes away a lot of tension. But then again, seeing as how this movie is from the killer's point of view, Michael Myers is not scared when he kills and thus neither should the audience be.

On the technical side, Most of the cast do a decent job of acting their parts. Special mention goes to Malcolm McDowell as Dr Loomis who does an incredible job of fleshing out his character's inner torment; he feels responsible for Michael's actions but at the same time cannot bring himself to kill a man that he pities more than hates. None of the supporting cast are every fully explored though, with only Michael Myers and Dr Loomis getting the most character development; perhaps again a side effect of focusing the movie on Michael. Rob Zombie does fall back on quick cuts, cheap shocks, and other typical camera tricks of horror movies but it does not take away from the enjoyment of the film. There is also a good amount of gore and nudity here to satisfy the casual slasher movie fan too.

Not everyone will be happy when a horror movie not just humanizes its main "monster" but fails to be scary. But other would love the fresh new direction that the remake decided to go which adds a whole new dimension to the slasher film killer stereotype. Though not entirely perfect, Halloween 2007 is a lousy horror show but an excellent psychological drama that delves into the mind of a killer, effectively reminding us that behind every face of evil, there was once an innocent child.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you are open to an actual reinterpretation of a classic horror icon that adds a new level of depth
Avoid it: if you expect something as creepy or scary as the classic that inspired this remake

Entertainment: B
Story: C+
Acting: B+
Characters: A-
Replay value: B-
"Brains": B-

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985)

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: creative directing that hides animation limitations, easy to follow character driven narrative, well paced war story, realistic character portrayals, philosophy as a "side dish", emotionall compelling.

The Bad: a few "far out" concepts about psychic powers, skimps on the politics that made its predecessor such a treat to watch.

Current Availability Status: "Anime legends" edition boxsets available online. Not available in singapore.

> Below: Limited collectors edition. Out of print.

DVD extras: trailers


7 years have passed since the events of the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM and the battles lines have shifted once again. Yesterdays heroes are today's oppressors as the once heroic Earth Federation has degenerated into a fascist ruling party whose iron law is upheld in the space colonies by the "Titans", an elite task-force created to quell any form of possible insurrection. Opposing them is "A.E.U.G", formed by a number of ex-ZEON members including the legendary Char Aznable. It is an underground group of freedom fighters slowly gaining support and power among the colonies. Enter the brash and hot headed Kamille Bidan who, during the events of an A.E.U.G attempt to capture some experimental mobile suits, lands up piloting the newly developed Gundam MK2. A series of tragedies occur which forces Kamille, who already harbors a dislike for the Titans and the Federation, to join up with the A.E.U.G as they make their way to earth. While the Titans are determined to stop the AEUG no matter the cost, the AUEG themselves are planning an all out attack on the Earth Federation. However, as the two factions tear at each other, a more dangerous threats looms in the form of the "Neo Zeon" movement.

The first thing that would strike any viewer of Zeta Gundam is how the various players in the war were portrayed. Instead of going for a morally ambiguous stand and make each side seem "good" in their own way, this show is quick to bring out the "ugly face" of each side, ally or enemy; it is the viewers' choice to either root for the devil or the demon. Even the heroes do some morally questionable things over the course of the story, but it all plays into some very well thought out character development.

This series focuses more strongly on its main character of Kamille Bidan, his point-of-view and how me meets the various different characters as the story advances. Kamille starts off as, quite honestly, a self-centered brat with an identity crisis and a dysfunctional family relationship. But his development over the course of the series is heart warming and emotionally engaging as he matures and is given a crash course in "growing up" and being a responsible soldier. Without spoiling anything here, but let us just say that the poor kid experiences quite a good number of deaths, especially involving some people close to him. Some of those deaths were a result of enemy action, but others came as a result of Kamille's own childish stubborness.

How the characters react to their situations are realistically logical, in a style that one would expect from any real life person thrust into that situation, and lead up well into their subsequent actions, be it a subtle change of attitude or even defecting to the other side. From the inner turmoil of Kamille Bidan, to the crazed obsession of Jared Messa, to even Quattro Bajena's loss of faith in his leadership capabilities. All of them are equally compelling and fully developed. Character from the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM series return, all grown up and a little differnt in their outlook toward the war, but the same people that the fans remember. However, it is Kamille's story and the narrative manages to keep its focus despite the ever growing cast.

The story moves along at an excellent pace with enough twists to keep you coming back for more. It may start off a little slow for the first few episodes, mainly just to get all our main cast into place, but manages to pick up after that. The episodes never seem to drag and the intrigue just keeps building especially after the introduction of the cyber newtypes and "Axis Zeon". Though not as in the forefront as other Gundam productions, politics play an intergral role in advancing the plot and giving a sense of scale to the ongoing conflict.

Created in 1985, Zeta Gundam's animation is actually quite good for its time. It can hold up to many anime series up to those in the late 1990s thanks to its detailed artwork. The director does use a number of stock footage and repeated scenes especially in battles, but he does it in such a way that it is never really obvious the scenes are re-used. Little things like using a stock footage in mirror-image or re-coloring the background of a stock footage or even playing with the speed of the animation all helps to "mask" the re-used scenes and animation. A very shrewd bit of directing there that allows the animation to look great while saving on cost. In fact, one can argue that the style of the art and animation here lends a very "gritty" look to the show that goes well with its darker storyline. Thanks to that, the action in Zeta Gundam is intense and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

At times however, the saturated narrative does seem to lose its focus. Near the latest parts of the series, psychic powers start to manifest. The concept of a "Newtype" initially was a person born in space with the ability to fully understand, almost metaphysically, the intentions and actions of others. Now, a "newtype" is anyone who exhibits not just enhanced perception and low level ESP, but actual psychic powers that allows one to predict an opponent's next move and even used in the form of a psychic attack. Thankfully other concepts fare a lot better, particularly the differnt points of view and philosophical rhetorics about the nature of war.

Conceptual shortcomings aside, MOBILE SUIT ZETA GUNDAM is very much and enjoyable anime series; a timeless tale that can appeal to any modern audience who are willing to look past its vintage. For those that can not look past its age, Sunrise and Bandai saw it fit to remake the series back in 2005 into three movies featuring updated animation and artwork. However, any Gundam fan will tell you that nothing beats the"classic charm". With animation beyond its time, a dark but highly engaging story and an emotionally identifiable cast with strong characterization, it is no wonder many long time Gundam fans regard MOBILE SUIT ZETA GUNDAM as the best Gundam series ever created.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you'd like to experience a milestone in anime history; a sweeping galaxy spanning tale that takes the time to focus intimately on its characters.
Avoid it: if technical age is a factor that would affect your enjoyment of a story.

Entertainment: A-
Story: A
Characters: A
Animation: B-
Art: B-
Voice work (Japanese): B
Voice work (Canada english): C+
Replay Value: B+
"Brains": A-

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994) "Uncut, Uncensored, Unleased" edition

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: Superbly choreographed fight scenes, highly fluid animation, detailed artwork, characters look exactly like in the game, great voice acting.

The Bad: unfocused narrative, cheesy dialogue,

Current Availability Status: "Uncut, Uncensored, Unleadhed" edition available at most Laser flair and MJ outlets in singapore.

DVD Features:
- Japanese, US and UK versions of the film
- interactive character dossier

DVD Value for money rating: C-

Many fans will argue that Group TAC's"Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie" is THE Street Fighter movie. The prefect adaptation of the popular fighting game franchise. Compared to the two live action movies, the American animated series, the Japanese anime series and three other anime OVA movies, it is definitely the best in that it is almost exactly like its source material, flaws and all.

Like its source material, this movie delivers all the flashy fighting moves one would expect from Street Fighter while mixing it up with realistic fight choreography courtesy of professional Martial Artists. Every punch from wind up to the hit to the follow through is thoroughly animated. Close ups and long shots are used appropriately to give a very dynamic viewing experience. Characters act and react to their opponents like how real fighters would and unlike other fighting anime like Dragonball, special powers are not thrown around. In fact, special powers are very rarely used in this movie and only as a last resort. Most of the time, we have one on one duels that look better than some big budget kung fu movies.

All this is set to the gorgeous animation and artwork by Group TAC. It break free from the stereotype of anime utilizing more animation short cuts and lower frame rate than western animation. The frame rate here is so smooth, it almost looks rotoscoped. Even in non-action scenes Characters are always in motion with expression in the faces and body posture portrayed very nicely in the art. Now One would think that with a higher frame rate and smooth animation, the detail of the art would suffer. This is not the case here. The artwork is beautiful and finely detailed. Shadows and blacks are heavy lending to very nice gritty look and feel for the show. And the painted backgrounds are works of art on their own. The character designs are true to the game and pleasing to the eye, though some like Guile and Balrog tend toward looking exaggerated. In Balrog's case, he loooks downright off-model (check out those eyes)

On the flip-side the Street Fighter games were never known for deep narratives. As a result, The story of the movie is weak and cliched, teetering between juvenile and just plain silly. A power hungry dictator, M Bison, has been capturing the world's greatest fighters to turn them into his own private army. He seeks out one particular fighter named Ryu after he defeated Bison's second in command, Sagat. Ryu's life as a vagabond wanderer makes him hard to track, so Bison goes after Ryu's best friend, Ken, whose power level is also "over 3000". At the same time, Captain Guile of the US air-force and Chun Li of Interpol are looking for leads to take down Bison's Shadowlaw crime empire. The story plays out very straight forward with no hint of intrigue or build up, and hearkens back to the cheesy spy movies of the 60s with evil crime empires and giant sky ships. At the same time, the quasi science fiction elements of "power levels" and "mind control" never seem to blend with the more fantasy aspects like "Chi powers". It is almost like watching three different shows cut and pasted together.

Street Fighter II The Animated Movie also suffers from trying to introduce too many characters in too little time. Aside from Ryu, most of the characters are one dimensional stereotypes of different cultures or races. The motives of the other characters are never explained or only briefly touched on and they are never developed as the movie progresses. Even Ryu gets little development beyond being a guy in the wrong place at the right time. Then there are appearances by Zangeif, Blanka, Sagat etc who seem to be just there to make the game fans happy. They lend nothing too important to the plot, especially Zangeif and Blanka whose appearance is totally non-essential to the story and could have been cut out; that time and money could have been used to actually further the plot.

Lastly, The scripting and dialogue is undeniably plain. The games never had much dialogue aside from characters' "post stage" win quotes. Cheesy lines and over the top speeches abound in this movie. Thankfully, unlike other anime, characters do not spew lengthy monologues in the middle of fights. The Japanese voice actors deliver a solid performance and generally seem to have a lot of fun with their lines. The English version has more realistic, subdued acting and some lines are changed to make them less cheesy and more "adult". Plus it is more believable to have the majority of the characters, which are non-Japanese, speak English. Not to mention that the animators never bothered to properly sync the lip movement to the Japanese dialogue in the first place.Different music also accompany the different language tracks. The Japanese language tracks comes with a synthesizer composed score, very mellow and harldy noticable. A good point is that it never distracts one from the animation. The english language track comes with a heavy hitting grunge rock style soundtrack, no doubt inspired by the soundtrack of Mortal Kombat. It is more "in your face" than the japanese one, adding to the whole "badass" feel of the show. In the end, it comes down to personal preference.

Overall Street Fighter II The Animated Movie greatly enjoyable movie that captures the spirit of the games and likely to please fan and newcomer alike. Aside from the simplistic story and cookie cutter characters, the animation and fight choreography definitely sets the bench mark for fighting genre anime.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: to get a taste of what is essentially the best on screen adaptation of the famous fighting game.
Avoid it: if you expect this movie to give any further insight into the deeper workings of the various street fighter characters.

Entertainment: A
Story: C-
Characters: C-
Animation: A
Art: A
Voice work(Japanese): B+
Voice work (English): B+
Replay Value: A-
"Brains": D

Pull that strap for a nasty surprise.

My third "facing De-feet" joke in a single week.

ITS OVER 9000!!!

Come'ere I'm gonna EAT YOU!

Ryu comes close to De-feet (seriously i should stop with the feet jokes)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Full Metal Panic (2002)

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: above par voice acting, lovable characters, attractive designs, coherant narrative with a more mature feel that usual, realistic portrayal of semi-futuristic military combat, well written comedy, excellent cast chemistry, blends various genre seamlessly, high animation production value in the early episodes

The Bad: inconsistent animation, visible animation "short cuts" and downgrade with subsequent episodes, rushed conclusion,

Current Availability Status:

*above* hard box Region 1 "Complete Collection" from ADV films: Out of Print

soft box "re-release" edition by Funimation: still available from any major online DVD stores.

Bu-ray edition featuring remastered truHD audio: available september 2010
Comments: Do not expect true HD video for the Blu-ray release. This being a 2002 anime, it was not created in a HD 1080pi Master. It is not even widescreen.

Singapore Region 3 by Blue Max Entertainment: still available at most Blue Max stores islandwide.

DVD features USA R1: all versions of the USA DVDs contain the same features
- Clean OPs and EDs animation and songs
- production sketches
- comicaly original copyright warnings (the characters themselves warn agains copyright infringment)
- ADV DVD previews

DVD Features Singapore R3:
- just the TV series.

DVD Value for Money grade:
USA R1: B-
USA Blu Ray: C
Singapore R3: D

Remember back in chemistry you had to mix the various volatile chemicals in the right proportions or it will all go up in smoke? Full Metal Panic is a daring experiment that mixes serious military style action with high school humor and romance with mech battles. Dangerous combination there of serious and light hearted: too serious and the comedy loses its flavor, too comedic and no one would take the show seriously. So many anime have tried mixing genres with less than satisfactory results. Full Metal Panic on the other hand maintains its perfect balance of serious and silly, making for a very unique anime series.

Full Metal Panic takes place i a world not to different from our own. However in that world, there exists "Black technology" and selected special individuals called "The whispered" who possess enhanced cognitive capabilities. This Black technology allowed the mass production of giant humanoid mecha units called "Arm Slaves" which soon fell into the hands of terrorists. A secret organization called "Mithril" was formed to combat this rising threat of and to protect the Whispered from being captured and exploited by the terrorists. Mithril Operative Souske Sagara, only 17 but already a battle hardened soldier, is assigned to protect a newly discovered "Whispered" named Kaname Chidori. Along with his teammate, the wisecracking Kurz Weber and team leader Melissa Mao, Souske enrolls undercover as a student in Kaname's high school. Kaname's seemingly normal life comes crashing down as Souske tries to protect her in the only way he knows how: violently, decisively, like a well trained soldier, even employing some common battlefield strategies usually used to take down armed assailants. Hilarity ensues as Souske, who has only known a life of warfare since birth, tries to integrate himself into "normal" society and to fulfil his mission, much to the chagrin of Kaname. But just as it seems like the story is becoming a typical romantic comedy, a mysterious terrorist organization has discovered Kaname's whereabouts and is out to capture her by any means necessary.

Adapted from a series of novels as opposed to a manga aimed at kids or teenagers, the writing on Full Metal Panic stands out as decidedly more mature than its contemporaries. Every character is fully fleshed out and given a decent amount of development as the series moves along. Even side characters that would usually be just one-dimensional stock archetypes end up rather likable. Central to the story is the excellent chemistry the emotionally suppressed yet tenacious Souske and the hot headed Kaname. Though at first Souske only regards Kaname as a "mission objective" and likewise, Kaname regards Souske as "sergeant Psycho", the two grow closer as they get to know one another. There is definitely a theme of romance yet it is tastefully played out without any of the cheesy mushy stuff.

The way the dialog is written and lends a stronger feel of realism to the entire story. This top notch script, full of wit and charm, is complemented by equally top notch acting. Of particular note is the English voice acting by ADV films which matches the quality of the Japanese track tone for tone. Some of the roles may even come across as more natural in English such as Chris Patton's role of Souske Sagara in which he peppers his dialog with military jargon and maintains a stoic drill sergeant type of tone. There is also a Chinese dub track released in Asian countries but that one is plagued by serious miscasting of roles and a certain lack of actor enthusiasm. All in all, Both the Japanese language track and USA English track are equally enjoyable and sound equally natural.

For a 2002 production, Full Metal Panic is among the better looking ones, yet it has not aged too well despite being so recent. Boasting a beautiful level of art detail and an adequate frame rate animation by GONZO studios, Full Metal Panic's quality gets inconsistent as the series progresses. Badly rendered CGI is thankfully kept to a minimum, used only on a Submarine and some aircraft, but the show has its fair share of obvious cost cutting techniques in the later half, almost as if the production went over budget halfway through. Seen here are two screenshots of the same "Arbalest" mecha. The one o the left is from episode 6, the one on the right is from episode 24. Notice the dramatic drop in detail, the absence of any metallic like sheen and even a change of design.

There is a stark contrast between the animation quality seen in the first episode and the last episode. Quite a disappointment coming from the same studio that produced some awesome animation in Samurai 7 and Afro Samurai.

Animation flaws aside, Full Metal Panic is a rare series that manages to feel as good as some of the best Hollywood blockbusters of all time. This makes it easily accessible to viewers who have not watched anime and is a great series for "newbies" to jump into anime fandom. Two anime sequels, a couple of manga spin offs and a dedicated fan base despite its young age, Full Metal Panic might just end up a modern classic, talked about for years to come.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you love both comedy and science fiction action that is nicely blended and perfectly balanced, jumping between the two different genre seamlessly. Both down-to-earth realistic and humorously unreal at the same time.
Avoid it: if science fiction anime for you has to be dark and depressing, and comedy anime has to involve a harem of girls.

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Characters: A
Animation: B-
Art: B-
Voice work (Japanese): A
Voice work (USA english): A
Voice work (Chinese): C
Replay Value: A
Brains: B-